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By Margaret Kelly

RISMEDIA, May 7, 2007-As the North American population continues to grow in racial and economic diversity, brokers and agents will be sharing the American Dream with more people than ever. Homeownership levels are already at an all-time high in nearly every racial, economic and geographic category.

An area of significant growth in the real estate industry is immigrants and minorities, both as homeowners and future real estate professionals. Brokers and agents should be well aware of this shift and prepare accordingly. Some facts:

Immigrants are coming to the United States at a rate of 1 million per year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is the most significant rate of immigration since the beginning of the 20th century.

Minorities and women are expected to account for about two-thirds of the U.S. population by 2010, with Hispanics leading the way. Some projections call for Hispanic households to comprise 31% of the nation’s housing growth between 2000 and 2010, making it the fastest-growing minority group.

Multicultural business ownership is outpacing the general market.

By 2008, 70% of the new entrants to the U.S. workforce will be women and minorities.
Like most Americans, immigrants and minorities strive to achieve the American Dream through homeownership, and many have the financial means to do it. Most are educated and skilled, although many aren’t fully proficient in English. They may also lack in-depth knowledge about the American real estate process. Yet they truly want to become homeowners and have the purchasing power to achieve their goal.

In working with a diverse clientele:

Know that language doesn’t have to be a barrier. Find a translator to help, and be clear when you speak. This should be financially feasible and will pay off as your reputation as a bilingual-service real estate expert spreads.

Consider earning a CIPS designation. Certified International Property Specialists gain hands-on experience in international real estate transactions in addition to learning about critical aspects of transnational transactions, cross-cultural relationships, tax issues and more.

Try to understand immigrants’ culture, beliefs and family so you can better serve them. Minorities often face unique challenges; try to understand and know how to overcome these hurdles.

Listen. Like any other clients, immigrants or minority buyers and sellers will tell you what they need. If you don’t understand, ask for more information.

Follow through. Ask your clients what you did right and wrong, what went smoothly and what didn’t; try to get a good read on your performance.

Margaret Kelly, CRB, is chief executive officer of RE/MAX International. She joined RE/MAX as a financial analyst in 1987.